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Happy Thursday Everyone! I am super excited to introduce you all to the author of A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow, Laura Taylor Namey. This is also my first ever author interview and I had so much fun! Thank you Atheneum Books for Young Readers/ Simon & Schuster for this amazing opportunity.
Without further ado….
Interview with Laura Taylor Namey
Q1. Hi, it is such a pleasure to chat with you today! Before we dive in can you tell us a little bit about A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow?
LTN: Thank you so much for letting me stop by! A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow is the story of Miami Cuban teen baker, Lila Reyes. Just before graduating high school, Lila suffers three heartbreaking losses. Fearing she’s not coping well, her parents send her (unwillingly) away from the family bakery she loves to Winchester, England, hoping some time resting at their distant family’s country inn will give her a break from so many difficult memories. While in England, Lila finds new friends, a new kitchen to cook and bake in, beautiful scenery she loves more than she’d like to admit, and maybe… a surprising love. But falling in love with more than a new place presents a new series of heartbreaking choices for Lila, and challenges everything she’s grown up believing and hoping for her future.
Q2. What was your inspiration for A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow? Can you share a bit about your writing journey for it?
LTN: This book comes straight out of my family album. I’m the daughter and granddaughter of Cuban immigrants. Many places, traditions, foods, and life lessons I learned growing up in a huge Cuban family are knitted into my story. When I was crafting this novel, I tried to take the spirit of people I love, and the beautiful truths I learned about identity, culture, and legacy and reimagine them into a coming of age novel that teens could relate to. Writing this book has been one of the greatest joys of my life. I am so honored and blessed to be able to have this book as an ink and paper time capsule, tributing and holding the best of the family I love dearly.
Q3. Lila and Orion are such strong characters! Are there any characters in the book that you based off of your own personality or of someone in your life?
LTN: Thank you! There will never be a character more like the way I was at seventeen and eighteen than Lila Reyes. Writing her was about going back, digging up many of my biggest coming of age elements, and reconciling them on paper. This was sometimes emotional and hard. But it was also work that I loved and cherished.
Q4. Which character was the most exciting to write? Which character surprised you the most when creating them?
LTN: Writing Lila was pure joy. It took some time and careful tuning to move her through each chapter and through the particular emotional arc I’d dreamed up for her. As for surprising, Orion’s sister Flora was my biggest surprise. She plays a much larger role in my story than I’d anticipated and serves an important role in moving Lila through her own character changes. I absolutely love the sweet and trusting friendship that grows between Lila and Flora.
Q5. Your novel discusses themes of grief and mental health in relation to Lila. Was there a particular part of Lila’s healing journey that was empowering to write?
LTN: Writing mental health authentically and sensitively is something I am committed to. I work closely with a psychologist, who vets every word I write and makes sure I’m showing trauma, grief, and healing the best way I can. Without spoiling, I loved that part of Lila’s healing involves helping others and investing in them. I think this is so important for teens to see in stories.
Q6. If you could describe Lila and Orion separately in three words, what would you describe them as?
LTN: Lila: Stubborn. Big-hearted. Dynamic. | Orion: Charming. Witty. Prudent.
Q7. So we all want to know, do you have a routine or something you must do before sitting down to write?
LTN: I find I like to write all over the house, versus staying at my desk. Coffee is a must, and I love a big cozy quilt and plenty of snacks to munch on as I’m going along. Sometimes I write to music and I always make a playlist for every book.
Q8. Can you share your journey to getting A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow?
LTN: You never quite know what you’re going to get when your agent puts a new book on submission. Cuban Girl ended up going to auction about five months in, which proved to be a busy and exciting time. I ended up with the perfect editor, who has shown such a deep love for my story from day one and was instrumental in helping me shape the way my book looks today. My entire publishing team has been so wonderful in celebrating the cultural aspects of my story and it is such an honor to work with them.
Q9. Any advice you would like to share to aspiring writers?
LTN: Read fifty books in the genre and age group you’d like to write in. Pick your top five and see if you can point out what it is about these titles that makes them stand out to you as being extra impactful and special. Analyze the way these authors use pacing, character development, emotion, symbols, and setting to create a package you’d love to emulate with your writing. Also, just write and don’t be afraid of initial drafts or what comes out at first. Good writing is rewriting.
…And now for some fun!
SS: What has been your favorite read of 2020 so far?
LTN: Obsessed with Today, Tonight, Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon
SS: What is one fairytale/folklore/myth retelling that would be a dream for you to write?
LTN: Not so much a fairytale, but I’d love to do a young adult, Latinx retelling of Anne of Green Gables
SS: Do you have a favorite reading spot? Writing spot?
LTN: My favorite reading spot is on a beach! And I love to write on the same spot on my couch with an end table to hold all my beverages and snacks.
SS: What is your favorite beverage of choice that you go to during this fall weather.
LTN: The Philtered Soul from Philz Coffee.
SS: Thank you so much for chatting with me today!
LTN: Thank you for letting me stop by!
About the Author
Laura is a Cuban-American Californian who can be found haunting her favorite coffee shops, drooling over leather jackets, and wishing she was in London or Paris. She lives in San Diego with her husband and two superstar children.
This former teacher writes young adult novels about quirky teens learning to navigate life and love. Her debut, THE LIBRARY OF LOST THINGS published 10/08/19 from Inkyard Press/HarperCollins. Her #ownvoices sophomore project, A CUBAN GIRL’S GUIDE TO TEA AND TOMORROW is coming fall 2020 from Atheneum Simon and Schuster.